TSD Q&A: Thom Harvey, CEO, Philanthropist and UD Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee

Each year, the University of Delaware recognizes alumni who have achieved excellence in professional and public service. Nearly 250 individuals, including United States Vice President Joseph R. Biden, scientist and businessman Robert Gore and former UD football coach Tubby Raymond, have been named to the Alumni Wall of Fame.

On June 7th, Harvey Hanna & Associates President & CEO E. Thomas (Thom) Harvey, III will be among those inducted at the Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Harvey Hanna & Associates, a commercial real estate company headquartered in Newport, owns and manages more than 3 million square feet of prime commercial/warehouse, business campus, industrial site, and retail shopping centers in Delaware and Maryland. Recently, the company was recognized for donating more than $1 million to Delaware’s charitable organizations over the past fifteen years.

A graduate of Conrad High School and the University of Delaware, Thom recently spoke with Town Square Delaware about the role education has played in his success.


Thom Harvey, first chair of the Delaware Diamonds Society addresses leadership donors, photo courtesy of UD

Town Square Delaware: Tell us about your family and your upbringing. Was higher education a priority?

Thom Harvey: Both of my parents attended college, but like many others, didn’t complete their degrees due to the Depression and WWII. All three of their children – myself and my two sisters – received our degrees – me, with a little “prodding” from my mother!

TSD: Why U of D?

TH: Chance. I was a very immature young man and was in the second year of the draft lottery during Vietnam. I received a high lottery number and, as a result, wasn’t drafted. In 1970, the possibility of being drafted drove every other life planning issue out of my consciousness. As a result, I had given very little thought to college. Fortunately, my mother interceded with a very firm hand after she had given me all the rope she was willing to extend to make a decision on my own! She laid down the law and firmly insisted that I was attending college in the fall of 1970. I had been accepted to the Engineering school at U of D, but after three semesters, I switched to Lerner College of Business and Economics and completed my degree.

TSD: You studied business at UD and have been an extraordinarily generous supporter of that school since graduating. What do you see as the most important lessons college students can learn about business while in college?

TH: The most important skill, I believe, is to learn to identify and to solve problems and not to get stuck treating symptoms.

TSD: Are there any teachers or classes from your time at UD that still stand out?

TH: Eleanor Craig, who encouraged me to minor in Economics. I received my 18 credits [to minor], but by then, the school was no longer awarding minors. Professors Billon and Sloan were favorites. Professor Pohlen was also very effective and taught me well.

TSD: As someone who has been so successful in business, do you believe that a four-year college education is still as valuable now as when you attended school in the 1970s? What should universities be doing to ensure the experiences they offer are worth the time and expense, and ultimately help prepare graduates for their careers?

TH: There is no doubt that a full four-year, or five as it has become for many, is a life-changing experience. It allows a young person and his/her thought process to mature. Bolstered by formal learning, it provides an opportunity for a young person to become a much more formidable thinker. If one can then apply those much more sophisticated intellectual capabilities to the challenges he/she faces in life, there is no doubt that much higher quality outcomes will be the likely result. This helps both the individual and the community in the long run.

TSD: What do you see as the role of an institution like the University of Delaware in helping to drive economic growth in the state?

TH: Innovation, pursuit of high intellectual outcomes and a responsibility to continuing to innovate the teaching process are all just part of what the university does. Each of these is critical to increasing the quality of life in our state and will undoubtedly increase good economic activity. A vibrant economy requires many skill sets to be nourished. I see UD as the center of the institutions of higher education in Delaware which all work every day to educate and to increase the intellectual capital of our state.

TSD: Blue Hen football 2014: How do you like the Hens’ chances?

TH: I think the entire sports program at the University is on such a positive track that I fully expect the football program to lead the way next year and to once again earn a playoff opportunity. Go Hens! Men’s basketball also deserves high praise for the year they just posted. Winning their conference and making it to the NCAA tournament was great. They played a very competitive game in Spokane and impressed the country with their sportsmanship and their effort.

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